South Africa could enter the new travel red list as early as TOMORROW as number 10 was warned of the Botswana Covid super variant that has caused an ‘exponential’ rise in infections and could make current vaccines at least 40 per cent less effective
- The UK’s Health Security Agency said B.1.1.529 contains more than 30 mutations – more than ever recorded in a variant
- The combination of strains indicates that it can be more resistant to the vaccine and transmissible than any previous version
- It caused an “exponential” spike in cases in South Africa, which has already spread to three countries – including Hong Kong
South Africa could enter the Travel Red List as soon as tomorrow after player 10 was warned that a new type of Covid was spreading quickly and was the most worrying strain of all time.
The UK’s Health Security Agency said B.1.1.529 contains more than 30 mutations – more than ever recorded in a variant and twice as many deltas – suggesting it could be more vaccine-resistant and transmissible than any before it.
It caused an “exponential” spike in infections in South Africa and has already spread to three countries – including Hong Kong and Botswana, where it is believed to have emerged.
UK government scientists have suggested it could make current vaccines at least 40 per cent less effective at preventing infection, in a best-case scenario.
It is not clear what effect the variable – which the World Health Organization could call “nu” in the coming days – will have on protection against serious illness, hospitalization or death.
Ministers have been called to an emergency meeting of the Cabinet Committee Covid Operations tonight, chaired by Cabinet Office Minister Stephen Barclay, to discuss the closure of Britain’s borders to travelers from Africa.
There are around 700 travelers flying into the UK from South Africa each day and an estimated 10,000 will return since the variant was first discovered on November 11 in Botswana.
No cases have been detected in the UK so far, but everyone who has returned from South Africa in the past 10 days will be contacted and asked to be tested.
This graph shows the proportion of cases that were the B.1.1.529 variant (blue) and the Indian ‘delta’ variant (red) over time in South Africa. It indicates that the mutant strain could outpace Delta in the province within weeks
The slide above shows the percentage of tests that captured the SGTF mutation, a hallmark of B.1.1.529. It indicates that the Covid variant may spread rapidly in the country. The slide was presented at a briefing today by the South African government
The slide above shows variants detected by a province in South Africa since October last year. It is suggested that B.1.1.529 is concentrated in Gauteng County. This was presented at today’s briefing from the South African government
The above shows the test positivity rate – the proportion of tests that caught the virus – across Gauteng province. And reveals the high number of cases in the northern part of the province. It is not clear if this could be driven by B.1.1.529
The original red list was reduced to zero countries at the end of last month when the seven remaining countries on it were removed.
Number 10 left the door open to bring back the infamous visual travel system as Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps said last month that hundreds of hotel rooms were still on quarantine alert.
The UK Health Services Authority (UKHSA) said it had held extensive talks with scientists in South Africa about the new alternative but that the situation was “evolving rapidly”.
Although only 100 cases of the new variant have been identified so far, it is already present in three countries, indicating that it is more widespread than the official number.
Two cases were detected in Hong Kong – both with links to South Africa – three cases were detected in Botswana and the rest in South Africa.
Scientists have warned that the lack of monitoring over the African continent may underestimate the real numbers there.
British experts say it will take another two to eight weeks until they can study the variant in enough detail to see how infectious or vaccine-resistant it is.
Nationwide, infections in South Africa rose tenfold from 100 per day to 1,100, after the variant was first discovered in neighboring Botswana on November 11.
UK government scientists believe it can easily infect previously infected patients, because South Africa has very high levels of natural immunity.
Only 41 percent of adults received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 35 percent received the full vaccination.
In a hastily organized press conference today, the South African government revealed that the surrogate has been officially spotted in three provinces but warned that it may already have been in all nine provinces.